Lygnern & Samuel Plimsoll
South Mole - Fremantle
The Lygnern and Samuel Plimsoll site is located only a few hundred metres outside of the entrance to
the inner harbour limits of Fremantle Port. Immediately north of the wreckage is a red and black "Isolated Danger" navigational marker marking the location of the shallow wreckage. The site is only 8 metres deep and was originally just the wreck of the Lygnern until the Samuel Plimsoll was damaged in the inner port and was cut up and dumped on the site on top of the wreckage of the Lygnern.
Although the site is in close proximity to the rock walls it definitely needs to be visited by boat. There is a huge amount of boat traffic over the site as vessels leave and return to the Swan River and the port, also nearby is the entrance to Fremantle Fishing Boat Harbour and vessels returning from Rottnest make an almost direct passage over the wreck site. Visibility on the site can be greatly effected by the outflow of river water from the Swan River. It would be assumed that the end of the flood tide would be the most opportune time for clean water to be over the site. When we visited the site, from the surface visibility seemed quite poor from the boat however, on descent we experienced a dirtier layer of river water on the first two metres of descent and clean and clearer seawater for the bottom five metres.
The easiest ramps to access the site from is the Leeuwin Boat Ramp in East Fremantle or the Woodman Point Boat Ramp in Cockburn Sound, unfortunately for a wreck only a few hundred metres from Western Australia's major port, there is quite a long trip to the site from the nearest ramp.
The Lygnern on the day it went aground - Still with smoke from the boilers. Image from the Bronzle website
GPS: S 32°03.543' E 115°43.605'
immediately south of the isolated danger navigational marker
Location: South Mole
Site depth: 8 metres
Divable conditions: < 1.5metres swell. <15 knots wind
Visibilty: 5 - 10 metres
The 122 metre long Lygnern was a Swedish owned steamship freighter that went aground at the mouth of the Fremantle Harbour in September 1928. The vessel was initially berthed in the harbour but circumstances arose that caused the Lygnern to be moved out to anchor in Gage Roads by the Fremantle pilot. Soon after the pilot had left the vessel, the 2874 ton Lygnern was felt to have touched the bottom on an uncharted shoal, this destroyed the rudder and rendered the vessel's engines inoperable and the disabled freighter grounded on Beagle Shoal and took on water.
For many years the Lygnern was left in situ, still upright and intact and local children would build canoes to paddle out and climb aboard the wreck. It wasn't until the war when the wreck was deemed a nuisance to navigation the shipwreck was destroyed with explosives to submerge it beneath the ocean's surface.
The Samuel Plimsoll was being used as a hulk in Fremantle Harbour at the time of its sinking in 1945, one report states the hulk simply sunk in the Harbour and another states it had a collision with HMAS Dalgoma and sunk. The sunken hulk was then cut up and raised to be dumped over the site of the Lygnern on Beagle Rocks.
Prior to the Samuel Plimsoll being converted to a hulk, the vessel was a 1500 ton high speed clipper that would trade between Australia, Britain and around the world belonging to the White Star Line. The vessel was launched in 1874 and in 1899 while in the Thames River in London she caught fire and was scuttled, only to be re-floated and salvaged and then re-entered service under the new ownership of Savills. While operating in the waters of New Zealand the Samuel Plimsoll was de-masted in a gale and was deemed not to return to service. The vessel was towed to New South Wales where it was then stripped of its rigging, converted to a hulk and eventually found its way to Fremantle Port serving as a coal carrier in the inner harbour.
Samuel Plimsoll - State Library of South Australia